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Pinto Beans & The Gospel

I love to eat my Grandma’s pinto beans.  Raising four boys on a budget, Grandma cooked a lot of beans in her younger years.  (To hear my dad tell it, that’s all they ever ate.)  And to this day Grandma will inevitably have a pot of beans on the stove, if she knows grandkids are coming to visit.  Now I’m lucky because Megan has mastered the art of cooking “Grandma Beans” and maybe even made them a little better.  I’ll eat them with every meal, until they’re all gone and I have a suspicion that Megan times the cooking, so that they smell just right when I open the door after a long day at work.

But when I go out to eat, I never order pinto beans.  At a potluck I won’t spoon a big helping of them on my plate.  Nothing else is ever quite right.  I don’t know if it’s the beans themselves, or how they’re cooked, or how they’re seasoned.  I just know that I sure don’t care for other people’s pinto beans, no matter how good they’re supposed to be.

I think about those beans every time I read Colossians 4:6… Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

The word Paul uses here that’s translated “seasoned” is a culinary word.  It means to prepare or arrange food, to season a meal, to make it savory.  I imagine the care Megan takes when tasting a spoonful of “Grandma Beans,” adding a little salt, stirring, and trying again over and over until they’re just right.

That’s the care that Paul tells us to use when preparing our conversations. 

Paul’s point is clear but often missed.  It is not enough to simply speak the truth.  Answering questions in a doctrinally correct manner is important but not our only consideration.  Our speech should always be gracious, and our answers should be prepared with the same care that a chef prepares a meal.

And Paul tells us that as we prepare our answers, we should do it with each person in mind.  It’s worth considering that just like not everyone has the same favorite meal, the same answers might not be appropriate for everyone.

In Ephesians 4:15 we’re told to speak the truth but to do it in love.  Speaking true words is not the only requirement placed on us. 

A meal prepared and seasoned in love is prepared to not only nourish but to please the one who consumes it.  The same is true with our conversations. 

We see the wisdom of Jesus teaching an agrarian society in parables about tares and wheat or about good and bad soil.  Jesus spoke to the poor about the value of one lost coin and to shepherds about lost sheep.

When Paul was at the Areopagus, among philosophers who spent their days considering the mysteries of the spiritual world, he didn’t tell them about lost sheep.  He could have and his words would have all been full of truth.  But Paul considered his audience.  Paul seasoned his words in consideration for his audience and, he presented the gospel in a way that was appropriate for that particular moment.

We should never be ashamed of the gospel or shy away from proclaiming the love of God to the world.  We should also never be so careless as to only share the truth in a way that suits us best.  Sharing the gospel isn’t about you; it’s about reaching the lost. Our first consideration in sharing the gospel should always be to speak the truth, but Paul gives us additional things to consider before we speak….  Is this in love for the person I’m speaking to?  Have I carefully prepared my words, so that the truth will be accepted by them?

If we shout the truth of the gospel to a lost and dying world with no regard for who we’re speaking to or how it might be received, what goal does that accomplish?  Does it actually reach the hearts of the lost?  Does it present the gospel with the care and preparation we see from Paul and Jesus?  Or does it allow us to sleep better, knowing we’ve checked the “share the gospel” box off our list for the day?  Or maybe makes us feel a little more secure in our own salvation, because of how hard we’re working and how “right” we are?

I started this off talking a lot about beans.  You might not even like pinto beans, and I might not like your favorite meal.  But that’s my point.  We’re all different.  We all like our food seasoned a little differently.  It’s all food.  It’s all nourishment.  But we wouldn’t appreciate it as much prepared differently.  And that’s worth remembering, as we consider Colossians 4:6.

-  Eric Wise


“There are no traffic jams on the extra mile.”  -  Zig Ziglar